Some members of BirdLife Overberg members went on a morning outing to the western shores of the Botriver estuary and the Rooisand bird hide, halfway between Kleinmond and Arabella along the R44. Gawie and Tineke Malan drove all the way from Robertson to join us for the morning. We had immediate success when we arrived at the Rooisand parking area as some of Kleinmond's famous wild horses were right there in front of us. Most of the group have not seen them before and fortunately Carin Malan was at hand to tell the whole story of how these horses came to be here in the first place. This really was a great start to the day.
The water has receded dramatically over the last few weeks and therefore we did not go to the hide. The sun made it very difficult to bird initially as the glare off the water created perfect silhouettes, although there were lots of swallows and swifts around. There were also lots of bird calls in the bushes and we could hear species such as BAR-THROATED APALIS, BOKMAKIERIE, SOUTHERN BOUBOU, CAPE BULBUL, KAROO PRINIA and SOUTHERN TCHAGRA. Birding improved as we came closer to the mouth as we were now watching the water from the south. There were lots of cormorants, gulls and terns around and we had good views of GREATER FLAMINGOS, GREAT CRESTED GREBE (lots of them), GREY HERON, GREAT WHITE PELICAN and SA SHELDUCK. Waders included COMMON GREENSHANK, BLACKSMITH LAPWING, KITTLITZ'S PLOVER, CURLEW SANDPIPER and COMMON WHIMBREL. We then walked all the way back to the parking area and walked along the trail towards Arabella estate. Along the way we were entertained by a pair of ROCK KESTRELS hovering over a BLACKSMITH LAPWING with chicks – the adult eventually protected them by sitting down and allowing the chicks to hide under her wing. We had a grand debate about whether the kestrels would actually take such chicks.
The trail on the northern side of the estuary was far more productive and Carin, who birds here often, believes that this is nearly always the case. We were able to point out the differences between CASPIAN, COMMON, SANDWICH and SWIFT TERNS to all present. We were very exciting about a tern with an orange bill and considered the possibility of looking at a Lesser Crested Tern. It was only when we came really close that we saw that this young bird was screaming it's head off, while being fed by an adult CASPIAN TERN – one can try at least. The waders allowed good views and we were able to add THREE-BANDED PLOVER and MARSH SANDPIPER. The best sighting here certainly was a single BAR-TAILED GODWIT. AFRICAN SPOONBILLS were also foraging actively. The best was though left for last – as we were having snacks at one of the lookout points Gawie saw an OSPREY flying straight at us. It was trying to hunt and made several aborted plunges as it moved fairly slowly past us. This was a lifer for four present.
A visit to the Rooisand Nature Reserve comes highly recommended, even though it would probably be much better to bird there in the afternoon.